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Thursday, 25 August 2016

‘The Hidden Legacy’ by G J Minett

Published by Twenty7,
5 November 2015.
ISBN: 978-1-78577-0142
This was an amazing read. Narrated by multiple characters between 1966 and 2008, it had me totally riveted. Anyone who reads my  reviews will know that I read for the mystery, and this was a mystery. 

In 1966 John Michael Adams aged just twelve sets fire to two of his class mates, killing one and scarring the other for life.

In 2008 Ellen Sutherland receives a letter from a firm of solicitors informing her that she should contact them regarding the will of the late Eudora Nash. Ellen has never heard of Eudora Nash. At first she thinks to ignore it, but a telephone conversation with someone she has always trusted telling her to do just that changes her mind.

As the book progresses we are party to the thoughts of the principle characters, John Michael Adams, his father, and Ellen Sutherland.

Much of the power of this book lies in the characters. A horrendous crime has been committed, but where does the responsibility lie?  And what happens to the people whose lives are affected, not just when the atrocity takes place, but for the
generations that follow?  Eventually the threads are skilfully drawn together.
This is a book that will prove marvellous for discussion, but to say why may give away too much.  My advice is to simply read this insightful book which may make you pause before you condemn, when you read the next
sensational story in a newspaper.

Gripping, disturbing and heartbreaking, this thought-provoking book is a must read. Highly recommended,
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes
This is a debut book.

G.J. Minett studied at Cambridge and then spent many years as a teacher of foreign languages. He studied for an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester, and won the 2010 Chapter One Prize for unpublished novels with the opening chapter of The Hidden Legacy.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

‘Ink and Bone’ by Lisa Unger

Published by Simon & Schuster,
28 July 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-4711-5047-0

Carl Jung, one of the fathers of modern psychology, didn’t dismiss the paranormal; he regarded it as something we don’t understand yet: a position most scientific discoveries were once in. So  suspension of disbelief, if the author makes a decent fist of it, shouldn’t be too difficult if a psychic is a key character in a crime novel book.

Lisa Unger makes a very decent fist indeed of it. Her protagonist is Finley Montgomery, a twenty-year-old psychology student and something of a rebel; most of her body is covered in tattoos, her hair is partly pink and she rides a motorbike. Finley has spent much of her life in denial, fighting against the knowledge that she shares her grandmother’s ‘gift’ and will ultimately have no choice but to use it as it demands to be used.

Ink and Bone follows Finley’s progress through a renewed search for a little girl who was abducted a year earlier. The child’s mother is convinced she is still alive; her father, who was in charge when the abduction happened, is equally sure that after a year there is no longer any hope. The story of what actually happened unfolds through the eyes of Finley the reluctant psychic, the parents and several other characters; in places it’s a harrowing tale, and one which will make any parent want to keep their child close.

It’s also an absorbing read, and provided you’re not too sceptical to begin with, it will leave you thinking carefully about that fine line which separates psychology and paranormal studies. There’s little doubt that the workings of the human mind are only sketchily understood by the most knowledgeable ‘authorities’ on the subject; Finley herself doesn’t really understand the strange and unwelcome ability she has.

As well as a plot which I guarantee will grow on you, Ink and Bone also paints vivid pictures of small-town life in winter in upstate New York, and populates it with as varied and sharply-drawn a cast of characters as I’ve found in a crime novel. There’s even a twist ending which will make you gasp, and possibly weep if you become as involved with those characters as I did.

One of the great pleasures of reviewing is the discovery of new authors. Lisa Unger is well established, but new to me. She’s now on my list of must-reads. If you’re of a ‘more things in heaven and earth’ mindset, you could do worse than put her on yours. Ink and Bone is a good place to start.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Lisa Unger was born 26 April 1970 in New Haven Connecticut, USA. She is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of fourteen novels. Her books are published in twenty-six languages worldwide. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR and Travel+Leisure Magazine. Lisa Unger currently lives in Tampa Bay, Florida with her husband, daughter and labradoodle.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

Monday, 22 August 2016

‘Dodgers’ by Bill Beverley

Published by No Exit Press,
7 April 2016.
ISBN: 978 1 782271 70 3

This is a road novel with a twist – East is a teenager (14/15 years old) and running his own crew looking after a drug house for a Los Angeles drug gang run by Fin, a local drug baron. East’s half-brother, Ty, is a couple of years younger and neither he nor East has lived at home for some time. When East’s house is raided by the police, he is summoned to see Fin; he goes, thinking that he will be held responsible and is resigned to suffering the consequences, but Fin orders him, Ty and two other young men to go to Wisconsin to kill a judge due to give evidence against the gang. The oldest of the group is 20 and at least two of them have never left Los Angeles. The ill-matched quartet set out in a minivan and, as they travel further out into the landscape, the atmosphere inside the van becomes more tense and more claustrophobic. The plan goes awry, and though they manage to carry out the assignment, relationships sour and fracture. East shoots Ty, steals a car, abandons it and continues his journey on foot, until he eventually finds employment at a paintball range (no questions asked about his age). He works here until Perry, his employer, dies and Ty, now an integral part of Fin’s organisation, comes to take him back to the gang.

The language used and the pace of the storytelling weave an evocative picture of an American journey, supporting the story beautifully. This is an absorbing read - a debut novel well worth looking at.
Reviewer: Jo Hesslewood

Bill Beverly was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He studied literature and writing at Oberlin College. He then studied fiction ad pursued a Ph.D in American literature at the University of Florida. His research on criminal fugitives and the stories surrounding them became the book On the Lam: Narratives of Flight in J. Edgar Hoover's America. He lives with his wife and daughter in Maryland , and teaches American literature and writing at Trinity University in Washington, DC.
Photo: © Olive Beverly

Jo Hesslewood.  Crime fiction has been my favourite reading material since as a teenager I first spotted Agatha Christie on the library bookshelves.  For twenty-five years the commute to and from London provided plenty of reading time.  I am fortunate to live in Cambridge, where my local crime fiction book club, Crimecrackers, meets at Heffers Bookshop .  I enjoy attending crime fiction events and currently organise events for the Margery Allingham Society.

‘A Painted Smile’ by Frances Fyfield

Published by Sphere,
19 November 2015.
ISBN: 978 0 7515 5520 2 (TPB)
25 August 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-5621-9 (PB)

Sometimes reading a book which is part of a series feels like meeting up with old friends, even when some time has passed and it’s only the second visit to their world.

A Painted Smile is the third adventure for Di Porteous and her motley crew of allies. I missed the second, though I will certainly be seeking it out. This one is as engrossing, as richly woven and as subtle as the first, and these are charismatic people I want to know better.

It’s not a murder mystery, but the one death (by natural causes; the character was a frail eighty-something) becomes the catalyst for a chain of events encompassing burglary, blackmail and fraud – not all committed by Di or members of her merry band. But the real crime, as in the first in the series, is the damage people do to each other in pursuit of their own goals.

Di is slowly coming to terms with both widowhood and the dilemma of suddenly becoming a rich woman with a passion for traditional visual art, especially the many portraits which festoon her beautiful house. She and Saul, her late husband’s art collection agent, are planning an exhibition which will begin the process of opening her collection to the public.

Then Toby, eighty-plus and an amazingly talented member of an art class, dies with his brush in his hand, leaving a decrepit house where Saul finds a dozen exquisite paintings which have clearly been taken from a museum. He removes them, leaving Di uncomfortable; she makes an elaborate plan to return them, but what she discovers in the process makes her wonder how wise this would be...

I could sum up the rest of the story in a few more lines, but hate to spoil the plot of a novel I recommend so heartily. The plot is only part of it; the characters, the convoluted relationships between them, and the meticulous attention to detail which brings the whole scenario so vividly to life are arguably more important – certainly a more significant factor in my huge enjoyment of the book.

Di herself, her possibly-half-brother Steven, her lively but damaged twelve-year-old step-grandson Patrick, desperate to make his malevolent parents notice his existence, her father Quig of dubious morality, sprightly octogenarian Tabitha Hanks, Saul’s worldly-wise sister Sarah: these are just some of the intriguing personae who make up the extensive cast. The unnamed Kent coastal town they live in is as much a character as the people; and Frances Fyfield reveals a talent for finding the hearts and souls of museums, several of which figure strongly.

And as if all that wasn’t enough, she explores human nature at its best and worst, and makes the reader think very carefully indeed about the nature of right and wrong.

She has sown fertile ground in this series, and I for one hope it continues to bring forth fruit as full of flavour and nourishment as A Painted Smile.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Frances Fyfield   is the pseudonym of Frances Hegarty, a lawyer and crime-writer. Born 18th November 1948 in Derbyshire, she was mostly educated in convent schools before reading English at Newcastle University. She then went on to qualify as a solicitor, working for what is now the Crown Prosecution Service, thus learning a bit about murder at second hand.  Years later, writing became the real vocation, although the law and its ramifications still haunt me and inform many of my novels. She has been the recipient of both the Gold and Silver Crime Writers'Association Daggers. She is also a regular broadcaster on Radio 4, most recently as the presenter of the series 'Tales from the Stave'. She lives in London and in Deal, overlooking the sea which is her passion.
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

‘A Grave Concern’ by Susanna Gregory

Published by Sphere,
26 July 2016.
ISBN: 978-0751549799

It is Cambridge 1359 and Tynkell the University's Chancellor dies fighting a cloaked figure on the roof of the St. Mary the Great church. Whoever killed him seemed to fly away and the gathered crowd are convinced it was the devil. There is certainly no sign of him in the church.

So begins the search for a new Chancellor, a very much sort after position resulting in many unpopular and unsavoury characters putting themselves up for election. It is Brother Michael's job to organise it, and as he has been offered a Bishopric causing him to leave Cambridge, he wants to make sure he sees the best candidate in place before he goes.

However, to add to his consternation, a number of murders take place, including some of the candidates for the Chancellorship. Matthew Bartholomew, Michael's friend, a physician and a bit of a sleuth is baffled as to the connection of the deaths as they include workmen too, currently building tombs in the church. This leads him to believe that there must be two different killers at large. Then at the same time thefts start occurring, marble slabs etc. from the tombs.

To add to the confusion Matthew discovers that there seems to be a number of people who are secret devil worshippers, can this be possible among so many Holy men?

Michael and Matthew engage the sheriff and a number of his men to help solve the mysteries leading to some exciting action before all is solved. However, along the way they are shocked by the traitorous actions of some of the people they thought they could trust, is no one honest and reliable any more?

This latest story of Matthew Bartholomew and his friend Brother Michael lives up to expectations. It is full of twists and turns and many a red herring. The action builds nicely with a fast paced climax, especially as it takes place in a snow storm. So well described was it that it made me shiver!

Susannah Gregory certainly has a great talent for bringing the past alive and once again I see many of the characters in the book actually existed making it more interesting still. I also found it fascinating to learn that some of the events actually took place too.
Reviewer: Tricia Chappell

Susanna Gregory was raised in Bristol. After graduating from university, she spent three years in Leeds, as an officer in the West Yorkshire Police, before taking up an academic career. She has served as an environmental consultant, doing fieldwork with whales, seals and walruses during seventeen field seasons in the polar regions, and has taught comparative anatomy and biological anthropology. She is the creator of the Thomas Chaloner series of mysteries set in Restoration London as well as the Matthew Bartholomew books, and now lives in Wales with her husband, who is also a writer.

Tricia Chappell. I have a great love of books and reading, especially crime and thrillers. I play the occasional game of golf  (when I am not reading). My great love is cruising especially to far flung places, when there are long days at sea for plenty more reading! I am really enjoying reviewing books and have found lots of great new authors.